Celebrating Culture: A Romanian Christmas in Jersey

Celebrating Culture: A Romanian Christmas in Jersey

For many of us, Christmas is all about eating too much turkey and Christmas pudding, singing Jingle Bells at some point during the festivities and pulling on a cracker or two, only to be disappointed with the ‘dad joke’ inside.

But for others, there won’t be a hint of a roast potato or mince pie as they have other Christmas traditions due to their heritage or culture. We’ve been speaking to a few colleagues who make up our diverse public service to find out what Christmas looks like for them. Here’s how Adrian Petrea, Customer Feedback Manager for Customer and Local Services, celebrates…

In the few days leading up to Christmas, Adrian’s fondest memories of Christmas include, “going to my grandma’s, we would help the elderly and try to be useful. And it would always be snowing, so everyone would play in the snow.”

Christmas carolling is also an important feature of the Christmas celebrations in Romania. “The biggest thing would be the Christmas carolling, we would do it a day or two before Christmas. We would get together with friends or colleagues, practice one particular song, and go around houses. We would visit people we know first and then strangers.”

“You would practice for a few days to make sure you’d get it right. When we were younger it was all about getting treats, apples, and baked goods, and as times have changed people started giving money. You would build up confidence and then knock on door to door. A lot of time they would not open, or they would crack the door open a bit and you would sing to a door. If they liked it they would open the door more and more, and if they really liked it they would call you in and give you treats.”

“We would do this all day long until it gets dark, this would be done on either the 24th or the 25th of December.”

“I would spend the money after to buy my family Christmas presents. I remember one year we had spent so much time singing that by the time we finished the only shop open was a ‘non-stop’ shop that served essentials.”

“I ended up getting my mum a really fancy detergent, the expensive one, and my dad a lotion, and my sister soap and sweets. She really appreciated that I spent my money on gifts.”

Just like most of us over Christmas, food is a massive part of Christmas for Adrian, but in Romania, people would stop eating all meat for a month, until the 25 of December, to cleanse their body and soul.

“On Christmas Day, you get all these goodies. And on the 24 of December, my mum and grandma would spend all day making all this food, but if it had meat in, they weren’t able to taste it. I don’t know how they did it but they would get it right every time. The house would smell amazing from steaks to all sorts of Romanian specialities.”

“One of my favourites is ‘Sarmale,’ which you eat on Christmas Day, they are mincemeat, with rice and herbs, wrapped in cabbage and then you boil them, and finish by dipping them in sour cream and with some “mamaliga” on the side.”

“One of my favourite desserts that we do is similar to the Italian Panettone, called Cozonac, but it has a lot more stuff inside, like rum, raisins, coco, nuts. It’s amazing. When they make it, the house just smells like warmth and love and fuzziness.”

But Adrian’s favourite candy is something that you can only get in Romania which he remembers fighting over with his sister. “Christmas candy, you only find them at Christmas time, and they would be wrapped in really bright coloured wrappings, it would look like a bauble that you would put in a Christmas tree, but it was actually a piece of candy.

“They would be hung on the tree but you would not be allowed to eat them until Christmas day. I remember trying to steal them with my sister beforehand. They would taste like chocolate fudge.”

As Adrian has got older, he has started to spend more Christmases in Jersey, with his partner, son and friends, but he still continues to incorporate Romanian traditions in his festivities, and can confidently say that “the 24 of December still smells the same in my house as it used to do in Romania.”

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